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Kentucky Basketball Preview: Derek Willis

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After a breakout year in 15-16, Willis looks to play crucial role on young Wildcats team

NCAA Basketball: Kentucky at Texas A&M Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

#35 Derek Willis

Height: 6'9

Weight: 220 lbs

Class: Senior

2015-16 Minutes Per Game: 18.6

Points Per Game: 7.7

Rebounds Per Game: 4.0

Three Point Percentage: 44.2 percent

Best Game in 2015/2016: vs. Tennessee: 25 points, 5 rebounds, 7-11 from three point line

Derek Willis enters his senior season looking to play a critical role for a Wildcats team abundant with talent, but also abundant with youth. Willis will play the role of a senior leader that gained a ton of valuable experience last season and will look to build on that this season.

2015/2016 Outlook: Willis had a tumultuous offseason with an offseason arrest, but reports from practice indicate that Willis has really stepped it up this off-season, not only in terms of his game, but mentally in his attitude and drive to improve himself.

Let’s be honest. Kentucky NEEDS Derek Willis to take this team to the next level. Willis is arguably the team’s top perimeter threat and a guy that can be relied on to consistently knock down perimeter jump shots. For all the talent that exists on this team, there are not many consistent three-point shooters.

Willis will be valuable offensively as a guy that teams have to account for on the perimeter. When they stick close to him, it will open up driving lanes for De’Aaron Fox, Isaiah Briscoe, and Malik Monk. When they leave him to help defensively, he can make open jump shots as well as put the ball on the floor.

In addition, Willis showed the ability to be an aggressive rebounder last year, picking up double-digit rebounds a couple times. With an expected improvement in the frontcourt, rebounding should not be an issue. However, adding 5-6 rebounds a game from Willis would be a nice addition.

The main areas that Willis needs to improve on from last year are his defense and conditioning. Those two areas are what kept Willis from seeing much more playing time last season, as he often struggled defensively and lacked energy after being on the floor for an extended amount of time.

“Derek Willis has gotten better,” Kentucky Head Coach John Calipari told Jon Hale of the Courier-Journal. “Derek Willis has been on a great path right now. He’s got to sustain it. He can’t have a game and then say, ‘My body is breaking down.’ Just play the season. Go do what you did in the middle (of his junior year). That’s who you are now. Be that guy.”

The hype is on this freshmen class, and rightfully so. This class is one of the best ones the school has seen, and deserves a lot of hype. Without Willis’ ability to stretch defenses out and make shots, he will help those guys play better and improve the team as a whole.

Derek Willis is one of the most crucial factors for a successful season for the 2016-2017 Kentucky Wildcats.

Check out some highlights from Willis’ game against Tennessee last year.

Also, highlights from his 18 points, 12 rebounds performance against Missouri.